Krystal and Saagar examine Biden’s response on abortion, Elon’s Twitter deal falling through, Ukraine war fears, Biden trip to Saudi Arabia, WH coverup of Biden’s gaffe, Buttigieg’s blunders at DOT, debates about Biden’s age, and Shinzo Abe’s legacy in Japan!
Tobias Harris: https://observingjapan.com/book/ https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/09/op…
Timestamps: Abortion: 0:00 – 26:22 Elon: 26:23 – 39:01 Ukraine: 39:02 – 57:18 Saudi: 57:19 – 1:05:43 Biden Gaffe: 1:05:44 – 1:11:43 Krystal: 1:11:44 – 1:20:10 Saagar: 1:20:11 – 1:31:00 Tobias Harris: 1:31:01 – 1:44:54
7/11 NEWSLETTER: Abortion Response, Elon vs Twitter, Ukraine Stalemate, Saudi Trip, & More!
The anger from liberals on abortion was momentarily quelled by the executive order
signed by Biden on abortion. His order seeks to protect access to abortion nationwide despite the bans taking place in GOP run states across the country. Biden plans on instructing the Justice Department to protect women traveling out of state, protect mobile clinics on state borders, and provide leave for Federal workers seeking care. He laid out other provisions to expand access to abortion medication, emergency contraception, and IUDs with the Department of Health and Human Services. Another part of his order addresses patient privacy to combat digital surveillance and transfers of healthcare data related to abortion. Biden’s order rejects calls for using Federal land and facilities for abortion services. He rebuked demands to facilitate abortion pill deliveries from across the Canadian border. Additionally, the President encouraged Democrats to turn out in droves to enable the party to codify Roe v Wade
The Biden administration had previously been under fire from Democrats over the slow moving
response to Roe
being overturned. It was characterized by indecisiveness, slow announcements, and carefully crafted language. When taking the position to overturn the filibuster for codifying Roe
, Biden’s team took three days to announce his shift on the filibuster. Democrats had previously been angry about his support for the filibuster, and after the delay they were still left unsatisfied. Despite the leaked draft opinion, Biden and his team struggled to come up with a plan to address abortion until he signed his executive order. The difficulties have been exemplified by Vice President Harris’ confusing messaging to Democrats in interviews. In her latest interview, she was asked about Democrats refusal to codify Roe
previously. She stated
that liberals believed the issue had been settled by the courts. After the administration put her in the spotlight
for messaging on abortion and guns, their latest effort to boost her image has not gone well.
Anger from activists has not been received well by the administration. Biden’s outgoing Director of Communications expressed frustration with activists
they believe are out of step with the party mainstream. But the anger coming towards the White House has been loud from all factions of the Democratic party, not just the most extreme voices on the left.
The drawn out saga involving Elon Musk’s attempt to purchase Twitter has taken another turn. Musk officially backed out
of the agreed upon $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter because he believes the company has been misleading about its user count. The eccentric billionaire made it known that he has concerns about bot counts on the platform and accused Twitter of a breach of contract. Additionally, his legal team says Twitter did not provide necessary information they requested and made changes to its business without their permission. When the deal was first announced in February, stock prices of tech stocks like Twitter were much higher than they are currently. Changing market dynamics widened the gap between Twitter’s valuation and the price at which Musk agreed to buy the company. In response
, Twitter has decided to pursue legal means in order to force Musk into the deal. The social media giant will bring a lawsuit against Musk in the Delaware Court of Chancery setting the stage for a messy legal battle. Corporate legal experts believe Twitter will be on stronger legal footing than Musk, but it remains unknown if a successful lawsuit would be enough for Musk to act on the deal.
Former President Donald Trump had no love lost for Elon when the announcement was made. Trump lashed out
at Musk during a rally held in Alaska over politics and the fallout of the deal. He called the deal ‘rotten’ and counted Musk’s claims about becoming a Republican only recently. The decision by Musk reverberated throughout Trumpworld, with renewed attacks on the platform from Donald Trump Jr. Longtime Trump aide Jason Miller, now CEO of right wing alternative platform GETTR, claimed it exposed Twitter’s political discrimination. Many right wingers were cheering on Musk’s attempt to purchase the platform, hoping he would discontinue the censorship of conservatives on the site. The Tesla founder had caused a stir on Twitter when he expressed interest
in Ron DeSantis as a Republican Presidential candidate. The Florida Governor is the subject of much speculation about a 2024 GOP primary challenge to Trump because of his national stature and growing momentum.
Trump and his son both promoted their platform TRUTH Social, after they removed themselves
from its board right before it was hit by subpoenas from the SEC. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the merger between Trump’s media company and a large media SPAC.
The war between Russia in Ukraine rages on with no end in sight. Russia is beginning to run low
on precision weaponry, suggested by a recent missile strike on a shopping mall. It could become a problem if Russia turns to less sophisticated armaments and unintentionally hits targets across the borders of NATO allies. A strike within NATO territory would certainly lead to dramatic escalation and greater American involvement. The residents of Ukrainian cities are feeling the damage most, and some in the Donbas region have divided
loyalties. A portion of residents are welcoming the invaders simply because they wish for the war to be over. One man explicitly expressed his belief that Ukraine and Russia should have negotiated an end to the conflict earlier, with both sides giving concessions. The war has turned into a stalemate
of sorts between the western backed Ukrainian forces and the Russian army in the Donbas region. Western NATO forces are hoping their strategy to back Ukraine for as long as it takes will eventually lead to the Russian military running out of gas. Attacks by Russia and counterattacks by Ukraine consuming mass amounts of casualties and materials are leading to little progress for either side. Slowly the Russians have made gains in the Donbas region and successful occupations of vital strategic cities. This phase of the war could be much longer and bloodier than the initial phases of the conflict. Russian leader Vladimir Putin showed similar determination, vowing that Russia’s recent gains are only the beginning
of its military action.
The Washington foreign policy establishment has uniformly backed the strategy of supplying Ukraine for an untold period of time. A few exceptions have emerged, most notably at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. The prominent anti-war think tank has been featured on Breaking Points
on many occasions, and its analysis is a useful guide for this program. Now there are divides emerging
between scholars affiliated with the think tank. Two experts have taken issue with Quincy’s coverage and positions on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The Quincy Institute has been a leading advocate for diplomacy and limits on US military aid to the Ukrainians, with the objective of preventing another endless war from embroiling the American military. Criticism of the NATO expansion eastward and continued western escalation of the conflict have been frequently expressed by Quincy experts. The dissatisfaction comes from a perceived softness on Russia and opposition to American military support for Ukraine. The Quincy Institute has positioned itself as a transpartisan advocate for realism and restraint in US foreign policy, and Breaking Points
will continue to back their mission.
President Biden will be making a diplomatic trip to Saudi Arabia to meet with Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, he justified
the decision seen as a star reversal from his campaign promises to disengage with the Saudis. He aims to reset ties with the regime after denouncing the Crown Prince as a pariah not to be engaged with. Concerns about human rights and reassuring the strategic partnership with the country are at the top of his list of priorities. With that said, the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi orchestrated by MBS will be top of mind for western observers. America has engaged with the Saudis since the time of Franklin Roosevelt primarily because of their deep oil reserves; a hot topic given the tumultuous rise in global oil prices. America will be counting on an increase in supply from OPEC producers to facilitate a stabilization in oil markets. A major change from OPEC might be hard to come by given their increased profits from the rise in global oil prices. Deep Saudi reserves will be a strong bargaining chip in discussions with President Biden about stronger American military guarantees for the kingdom. The Saudis are also seen as a vital check against Iran and the rise of China in the Middle East. Biden will look to affirm US support for the Yemen ceasefire brokered by the UN amidst a devastating famine in Yemen. The Saudi blockade of Yemen in support of the rebel Houthi Shiite group has driven the famine, considered a human rights catastrophe by global observers. Biden will be the first President to fly from Israel to Saudi Arabia, symbolizing a diplomatic step towards relations between the two countries.
Joe Biden had a major gaffe
during a speech when he uttered the ‘repeat the line’ phrase on his teleprompter. The phrase was meant as an indication for him to repeat the previous statement, a common technique used in teleprompters. It immediately went viral online and drew scrutiny from those who have raised concerns about Biden’s mental acuity. The President’s communications department quickly went into damage control mode and distorted
Biden’s words during the speech. Instead of transcribing the ‘repeat the line’ gaffe, Biden’s team put ‘let me repeat the line’ which they claimed Biden was trying to say. A communications staffer for the administration indicated her belief that Biden said ‘let me repeat the line’ shortly before the transcript was released with that phrase in it. White House staff tasked with archiving Biden’s speeches is typically apolitical in creating the historical records, but not in this instance. Joe Biden’s reputation as a gaffe machine long predates his time as President, but simple mistakes like this one point to a deeper problem. Misreading teleprompters despite decades of experience with them marks an old man losing faculty, a topic Saagar will go into further during his monologue.
In her monologue, Krystal evaluates the tenure of Pete Buttigeg as Transportation Secretary for the Biden administration. After dropping out of the primary when directed by Barack Obama, Buttigieg used his leverage to score a major political position in the administration. Hoping for a high profile and serious cabinet position, Buttigieg rejected other low profile yet powerful options. A role with the Office of Management and Budget was rejected
by Buttigieg as a patronage position. Then he turned down the VA Secretary job because it was beneath him; despite touting his military record on the campaign. He landed on the Department of Transportation, a position for him to raise his profile by cutting ribbons and doling out congressional funds to districts nationwide. His capability for running the agency was always an afterthought, even when he took two months of paternity leave when the supply chain crunch began. It was telling that nobody in the administration believed it would be an issue for him to be gone when his agency was needed most. But he was never selected to do an actual job; LARPing on cable news cameras and taking patronage was good enough.
So far, Buttigieg’s time with DOT has been a disaster because it is a very real job. While he has been cutting ribbons
, airlines are rife with dysfunction. They are gouging, defrauding, and screwing American travelers and even he’s been unable to escape the chaos. Buttigieg has not promised any action against the airlines by the Federal Aviation Administration within DOT aside from light criticism of CEOs. In his mind, the stint at DOT is going well for the political prospects of Pete Buttigieg despite mounting rage towards him. His political ambitions come first, demonstrated by a move
to Michigan and his intent to vote there in the fall. It could be the state for him to launch a Presidential or statewide campaign, given that Indiana is not a viable option. His previous record as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana was nothing spectacular, and the airline anger has exposed his lack of governing ability. It’s become a political liability and a source of real anger that could foil his blatant ambitions. The shadow campaign he’s been running is not going well, because it turns out governance is difficult.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar talk about the political consequences of Pete Buttigieg’s poor performance as Transportation Secretary. The airlines are dysfunctional and he is doing little to address the situation; instead traveling to other states for infrastructure photo shoots. Saagar’s travel experience flying over the weekend was riddled with delays at high level, urban airports. The status of those traveling in the middle of America at smaller and mid sized airports is an even bigger debacle. Buttigieg has not noticed that this will be a problem for him when he runs on his record at the Department of Transportation.
In his monologue today, Saagar focuses on Biden’s age discussion that is finally emerging. An inconvenient truth has been the old age of Joe Biden and his lack of mental fortitude. Now it is finally convenient to talk about this touchy subject, so the knives have come out for Biden. The Atlantic opened the floodgates with commentary about Biden’s inarticulate speech
and how it could affect his election prospects. Soon after, New York Times’ very establishment White House correspondent explored the concerns about Biden’s age
making it difficult to serve as chief executive. The existence of the piece at all is what makes it important, and the anecdotes from the West Wing are enlightening. Biden lacks the energy he had, causing some aides to quietly watch out for him. They fear he will trip on a wire and are always on alert for his public stumbles. As shown in today’s show, their fears of Biden publicly misspeaking are not unfounded. Going back to late 2019 and early 2020, the discussion around Biden’s age in the mainstream press has been profoundly dishonest. When the attacks came during the Democratic primary, the counterattack was that his childhood stutter
had suddenly returned. Then anytime Biden slipped in his speech, defenders cited the childhood stutter he overcame that had not been present for his entire political career. Take a random interview
from 2010, where he is much more coherent than today.
The most ironic part of the age discussion around Joe Biden is that Democratic insiders before they knew he would be the nominee were the first
to raise concerns. Before Biden was the frontrunner, questions about his age were allowed, demonstrated by the linked MSNBC segment. It was evident to the people who knew him best that age was becoming an issue back in 2019, until the media rallied around Biden and silenced dissent. It is a disservice to lie to the American people about the visible decline of Joe Biden. Talk may be emerging now, but once Trump returns to the scene it will certainly disappear.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar observe the lack of honesty in the discourse about Joe Biden’s age. It was obvious at the time that the problem was much deeper than any remnants of a childhood stutter, and the issue is when they weaponize it to cover up the situation. Democratic voters are very worried about his age according to polls, particularly with the senior voters in the party. Those voters get the fact that a man of advanced age would have more difficulty carrying out the job as President. A much more defensible position about Biden’s age leading to a decline would resonate much more with voters as shown by Bernie’s surge after his heart attack. Voters are capable of weighing the significance of health concerns for a political candidate.
Krystal and Saagar are joined by Japan expert and blogger
Tobias Harris to better understand the legacy of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. After being assassinated, Abe’s legacy
is being evaluated for his domestic and international priorities during his long tenure as a steadfast conservative leader. In the linked NYT op-ed, Harris argues that Abe’s ultimate legacy will be the post-war Japan that he built. Ever since Abe entered Japanese politics in the 90s, he changed the politics of the country and the direction of the state through his will and influence. Before he became Prime Minister and between his two stints, he was able to have a tremendous amount of influence. He invented a role as an ex-Prime Minister to still wage influence on the country. Shinzo Abe’s two stints as Prime Minister was a complicated figure whose personal arc and family arc was about state building. He looked at the long Japanese history and looked ahead to the future to build a strong, top down and centralized government. It would be able to meet the country’s challenges and create a strong national security establishment for Japan to face its future challenges. Abe made sure Japan would be strong and prosperous in an increasingly dangerous world by opening the economy up to the globe through trade, investment, and immigration. There was a patriotic education curriculum in schools involving Japanese history and it was an issue Abe attached himself to early in his career in the 90s. Part of his agenda was to prioritize education as part of state building to move the country forward from US imposed reforms and strong teachers unions. He was a critic of how Japanese children were being taught about their country, although he was much larger than the one issue. His major commitment was to the ideal of Japan and the pragmatic state of Japan as a political body.
After the assassination of Shinzo Abe, his party
secured a big election win in Japan; the former Prime Minister was murdered during a campaign speech. The victory represents the strength of his legacy and the unsolved conundrums he left behind. North Korea will continue to be a large issue for Japan, and building the potency of the Japanese military will be an issue going forward. Prime Ministers of Japan will be able to serve as global statesmen in a way they could not in the past, and Abe’s party is uniformly hawkish in a way it was not when his career began. His party’s ideological coherence is being shaped by Shinzo Abe’s tenure as Prime Minister and promotion of leaders who shared his beliefs. The current Prime Minister is a self styled liberal who was elected with Abe’s support, and he will be central to the debates around increasing defense spending in Japan. Building the ability to destroy sea targets within the coalition government and finding out what the public will sign up for will shape Japanese politics going forward.
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